Oregon Shakespeare Festival artistic director Nataki Jarrett resigned from the organization on Friday. Garrett is leaving the Oregon Shakespeare Festival after four years leading the organization.
According to the festival, OSF board member Octavio Solís will step in to help support the technical leadership team and find a replacement artistic director during the transition period. Solis is a Medford-based playwright and director.
OSF Endowment Council Chairman Paul Christie said Solis will help the organization move forward without interruption to the current season.
“Having Octavio here is the best possible situation, because he’s been on stage, he’s been behind the scenes, he’s hiring directors,” Christie said. “He knows all the logistics and intrigue that goes into shows.”
Garrett’s resignation comes during a fundraiser to save the current theatrical season and the organization itself as they struggle amid a financial crisis.
In a prepared statement, Garrett did not give a specific reason for leaving the organization.
“We are at an inflection point in our industry, where outdated business models must evolve in order for our theaters to survive,” Garrett said. “But these challenges also present great opportunities – to rebuild in a way that reflects where we are today and where we want to be in the future – with actors, staff, audiences and artistic leaders who reflect the richness of our country’s diversity. That’s what excites me. This is the work I came here for.”
OSF is trying to raise $2.5 million in order to prevent layoffs and complete the 2023 season. The organization has already paused planning for the 2024 season pending its fundraiser, and is expected to present its next steps for the season by the end of the month.
First reported this week by The Oregonian, the theater said it has already received more than $1.4 million in gifts, and hopes to raise $2.5 million by mid-July.
OSF has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Garrett has led the organization through layoffs, restructuring, and fundraising to keep the 88-year-old theater alive.
Garrett was the first black performer in the history of theatre. Last year, she also revealed that she was the target of death threats and racist remarks while living in Ashland. She was forced to travel with a security escort because of the threats.
The theater is a major cultural attraction in southern Oregon. In a statement, OSF Board Chair Diane Yeo commended Garrett’s work to advocate for performance venues and encourage equality and diversity in the organization.
“The Board is grateful for Nataki’s contributions to the advancement of theater and to expanding OSF’s leadership within the theater community across the country,” Yu said.
Garrett’s departure gives the festival an opportunity to consider their offerings and core values, according to endowment board chair Christie.
He said, “There were a lot of ideas that Nataki had put forward that were things that we weren’t able to realize and that we wanted to achieve.” “Should we do year-round shows? Should we do holiday shows?”
Christie said Garrett has focused on bringing new, younger audiences to the stage, something he believes they should continue to focus on.
Both Yu and Garrett declined interview requests.
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